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“Gender equality... still a distant dream”

IT News
Mumbai, March 7

As we are set to celebrate the “International Women’s Day” on Sunday, with a theme #EachforEqual, drawing attention to the difference individuals can make, a gender equality is still a distant dream in our country.
The “Women’s Reservation Bill” which proposes to reserve 33%  seats for women in the Lok Sabha and in all State Legislative Assemblies, is yet be passed. It was passed in Rajya Sabha on 9 March 2010 and subsequently got lapsed. It is yet to come in Lok Sabha.
Far from gender parity, the country has been witnessing is a growing crime against women. The “Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technologies Act” seeks to prevent female infanticide. The schemes like “Janani Suraksha Yojana”, the “Beti Bachao Beti Padhav” campaign..all are aimed women empowerment. But the sex ratio continues to be skewed. At present it is 950 women per 1000 men.
As per the National Crime Records Bureau, the crime rate per lakh women population was 58.8 in 2018 in comparison to 57.9 in 2017. This includes, the  “cruelty by husband or his relatives” - 31.9 per cent, ‘’assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty”-27.6 per cent, ‘kidnapping and abduction of women “- 22.5 per cent and the rape cases-10.3 per cent.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018. Stipulates death penalty, to those convicted of raping children below 12 years. Besides it also has provisions to punish those indulging in such crimes, who uses to escape punishment claiming as “minors”. Section 376E of the IPC stipulates death penalty to the accused involved in rape. Despite such deterrent legislation, criminals do not seem to be deterred. As such a change in mindset of men is need of the hour.
Besides sometimes even “higher ups” also contribute to crime.  In a recent case in Mumbai an MLA was booked for harassing and assaulting her daughter-in- law, after she delivered a second premature girl child ( who died later). The accused MLA wanted a male child.
While the male literacy rate is 82.14% per cent, the female literacy rate is at 65.46% per cent. Besides by and large, women’s participation in the work force is low at 27 per cent compared to other BRICS (an association of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries.
As of now there are a host of laws to protect women. Provisions such as: Right to equality under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees women equality before law, Article 39(d), guards the economic rights of women by guaranteeing equal pay for equal work; and Maternity Relief under Article 42, secures just and humane condition of work and maternity relief for women. Acts like the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, prohibits acceptance of a dowry and the guilty can be punished with imprisonment as well as fine. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, provides protection to women against domestic violence and recommends punishment of fine and imprisonment. As per the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act (Panchayati Raj Institutions) all local elected bodies have to reserve one-third of their seats for women.
The Central government has several schemes for women upliftment both at State and Central level. They include “Swadhar” (1995), “Swayam Siddha” (2001), “Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women” (STEP-2003), “Sabla Scheme” (2010), “National Mission for Empowerment of Women” (2010) etc. Thus, there is no dearth of laws and schemes for the women empowerment.
The condition of widows is the worst, since the society still treats them in a despicable manner, especially among Hindus. They are either abandoned by families or sent to “Shelter Homes”, to live a life of penury. A small pension of Rs 350 per month (which was Rs 200 earlier) is granted to them under the Indira Gandhi National Pension Scheme.  In most States, they are considered as a bad omen and are excluded being “inauspicious”.
After many years, the number of women MPs has increased up to  78 (nearly 14%) compared to 62 women MPs in earlier Lok Sabha. Besides a little solace comes to women serving in army, since the Permanent commission will be open for women officers from April 2020 onwards. They can choose the specialised stream for this during the second year of their service.
However deep-rooted patriarchate society, continues to affect women’s empowerment. Of late the women are holding important jobs with 42 percent of them earning equal to their husbands, but they still remain subservient to their husbands.

Raju Vernekar

Raju Vernekar is a Media Professional based in Mumbai and is a regular contributor of Imphal Times. He had served as Chief Reporter at Free Press Journal (1996 – 2015 ). His Activities includes writing for different news papers, script writing/production for TV channels, Films Division. Writing poems in Marathi, Hindi, English, Guiding mass media students and helping people to solve their problems. Raju may be contacted at [email protected]

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